Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum

So this past weekend, I wanted to go somewhere new. We researched some ideas and decided to go to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. I have lived in Atlanta since 1997 and I have never been to the Jimmy Carter Museum. I have really been missing out on a jewel because the place is beautiful. The design and layout are impeccable. There are picnic benches outside of the building surrounding a small lake and wonderful gardens. I plan to experience that fully once the weather warms up.
First off, children 12 and under are free and adults are $8. After paying a nominal admission price, you are encouraged to enjoy a short 15-minute documentary covering the life of former President Jimmy Carter, which was very insightful. Upon leaving the auditorium, we moved into the museum portion that charted Jimmy Carter's life chronologically from birth, to his time in the Navy and all the way to the White House and beyond. The best part of the whole exhibit, outside of the breath-taking rotunda, was the Oval Office replica. As an added perk to Carter's biographical exhibit, we had an opportunity to enjoy a small temporary exhibit on the research and life of Dr. George Washington Carver. This was a real treat for Makenzie because she just learned about him at school.
With all that being said, I highly recommend the visiting the museum, it definitely exceeded my expectations and I am a little upset that I hadn't visited sooner. So, what are you waiting for? Go find out for yourself...

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Own Personal Jam Session

I have had an addiction to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches since I was a small child. Of course, this means that I go through a lot of peanut butter and jelly. Currently, my adult palate prefers natural peanut butter and strawberry jam. At this moment, we are out of jam and being the resourceful yet adventurous person that I am, I decided to make my own. :) I'm sure you knew that was coming.
Surprisingly from start to finish (minus the time to allow the jam to set), it took me about 30 minutes to make 4 jars of strawberry jam.

Here is how I did it:

Ingredients (mostly, anyway)
2 lbs of smashed strawberries
1/4 cup of lemon juice
3 cups of sugar
1/2 pkg of pectin
4 glass jars with self sealing lids

Wash jars, tops and lids.
Then place in a pot of hot water until ready for filling.

Clean, hull and cut your strawberries down into chunks. Using a potato masher, smash the berries to your desired consistency. Since I like texture, I left my a little on the chunky side. I let Makenzie mash the berries, so that I could move on to the next steps.

Combine the first 2 ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

Add the pectin and continue to stir. Then add the sugar.
 Let the mixture come to a hard boil for 1 minute.
At this point, remove the the saucepan from the heat and skim any froth off the top.

Fill the jars with jam using a ladle, it will be a little loose at the point, no worries. Wipe the rim and sides of the jar before centering the top over the jar. Screw on each lid and return the jars to the pot of hot water to seal the jars. Be sure that the entire jar is underwater. Let the jars process for 10 minutes, covered. After the processing time, remove the lid, cut off the fire and let the jars stand for 5 minutes.

 Finally remove the jars from the pot and place on top of a towel to set for 12-24 hours.

Making jam was very simple and it didn't require much time. Heaven only knows what is in the stuff on the shelves at the store with artificial flavoring and a "real fruit" taste. I don't know about you, but I want to know what I am eating these days. Also, it is a great activity to do with kids. Kids are more likely going to try something if they helped with making it.

I plan to make some buttermilk biscuits to sample my creation. Enjoy!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review - Water for Elephants

I wanted to take time to review Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen that I recently finished and tell you what I liked about it. Now that I think about it, this review is perfect timing because it is circus season in Atlanta. The book is basically about a young man who literally stumbles into joining a circus after experiencing a sudden personal loss. He uses everything he has learned or experienced in his life up to the major turning point to his advantage in order to survive. The book really made me focus on what is important in life and the finality of the decisions that we make. I try my best not to say, "If I could go back in time, I would change...", I know that if one thing is changed, everything is changed. Currently, I like my life probably because the laundry is done and put away :).
As I read the prologue of the book, I knew I was going to be hooked until the last page. The characters were so colorful and real, I felt like I was in the book watching from afar. Now I can watch the movie and see if it lives up to the richness of the book. The resounding theme of the book to me,of course, is to live fully in the moment and be present, so that when I look back on my life at my sunset, I will have vivid memories of my life's journey. My final take-away from the book is to try new things no matter how old I am or whatever plans I have made because I never know where it will take me. The adventure may not include joining the circus but it might be just as cool.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What I love about the Fernbank Museum...

Since my membership will be up for renewal soon, I thought that I would take the time to talk about what I love about the Fernbank Museum of Natural History to be sure that I renew it ;). First off, the membership is really worth the price of $95. (For the record the membership was previously $89) That price includes 12 months of admission for 2 adults and up to 4 children (under 18) to museum exhibits, invitations to members-only gatherings and discounts on IMAX movies. I could just stop there and say, "Nuff said!" but I will continue because I have more to say. My girls really enjoy playing in the NatureQuest children's interactive play area. The coolest part of NatureQuest, for me, is the life-size treehouse. 

Identifying inhabitants of a cavern in NatureQuest.

Creating a huge bubble in a bin of soapy solution.
Sounds like Physics to me!

Another positive is the themed Princess and Pirates weekends, where children can arrive in their favorite princess or pirate costume, make a craft, meet "real" pirates and princesses and participate in a interactive story time.  The museum calendar is filled with lots of great activities outside of the giant dinosaur in the rotunda.

The membership also includes reciprocal gratis admission to partnering museums 90 miles as the "crow flies" from the home museum, as well as admission into the Fernbank Planetarium programs. All in all the value of the membership works for us because we have somewhere to go on lazy weekends, rainy days or chilly afternoons all for free, plus my girls might learn a thing or two. Just to be sure that I get extreme value out of the membership, we go at a minimum of once a month. The membership pays for itself in 2 visits for the Braswell Crew and its tax-deductible... What more could a parent ask for?

The girls are wearing turtle shells in the
Wildlife Preservation exhibit.

Payton is creating shadows
with different light sources.

Wildlife Preservation Exhibit